The Most Affordable U.S. Cities to Visit

The Most Affordable U.S. Cities to Visit

The school year is wrapping up and summer is on the horizon, which means that families across the U.S. are looking forward to vacation travel over the next few months.

June through August is considered the traditional peak of travel season in the U.S., but this summer is expected to bring even higher travel volume than usual. A survey from Nationwide Travel Insurance found that more than 90% of consumers planned to travel domestically in 2024, while 50% have international trips planned. Airlines for America estimates that airlines alone will transport 271 million passengers this summer, a 6.3% increase over 2023.

These figures suggest that travel is continuing a resurgence among consumers after the COVID-19 pandemic rocked the industry in 2020—when global tourism fell by 74%. While consumers remain eager to travel, COVID’s longer-term economic ripple effects have made big trips a pricier proposition. Disruptions to the industry and the impacts of inflation have made travel more challenging and more expensive in the last few years.

Travel Expense Price Inflation

Travel expenses have risen significantly faster than the Federal Reserve's 2% inflation target
: Dunhill Travel Deals analysis of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data | Image Credit: Dunhill Travel Deals

During the pandemic in 2020 and into 2021, travel costs were low as severely diminished demand sent the prices of key categories like lodging, airfare, and car rentals downward. Since then, however, all of these travel categories have experienced significant levels of inflation. Car rentals briefly saw their prices increase by more than 70% after rental agencies sold off large portions of their fleets and are now more than one-third higher than pre-COVID. Airfare and lodging had their prices decline through much of 2020 and 2021, but airfare now costs 15% more and lodging costs nearly 25% more than before the pandemic.


It’s more important now than ever to get a great deal on your next adventure. And while many choose to lock in their vacation plans well in advance to avoid higher rates, early birds don’t always get the best deals. Check out our last minute vacation deals, and book your next trip today.

The Most Challenging Aspects of Family Travel

Affordability is the biggest concern for parents considering traveling with their children
Dunhill Travel Deals analysis of Family Travel Association data | Image Credit: Dunhill Travel Deals

Rising costs weigh heavily on families as they plan out their vacations. While timing trips for breaks in school and work are a major consideration for many families, affordability is the most challenging factor cited by most parents thinking of traveling with their children. Almost three in five parents (59%) say cost is a challenge. And large shares of parents are seeking ways to save money and avoid unexpected costs when arranging a trip. Approximately half of parents report that they avoid hotels and airlines with heavy fees (50%) and pay close attention to cancellation and refund policies (49%) to ensure that they spend wisely.


Do you ever get a sudden urge to travel? It’s not always practical—or even possible—to have your vacation booked months in advance. And you might be shocked by some of the last-minute rates at many luxurious hotels and resorts. Here are some last minute vacation packages we have available right now.

Geographical Differences in Family Vacation Cost

The most affordable cities for families to visit are concentrated in the Midwest and South

As families balance their desire to travel with the need to keep an eye on travel costs, destinations in certain parts of the U.S. offer more affordable travel options. Locations in the Midwest and South tend to offer the most affordable locations for a family vacation, with a handful of cities costing less than $4,000 for a family of four to stay four nights. However, some of these destinations are primarily served by small or regional airports with limited commercial flight options, resulting in lower average airfares compared to locations with larger airports offering nationwide flights. Families seeking to maximize their vacation budgets may find these discounted airfares particularly advantageous if their local airports have flight options to any of these markets.

In contrast, major cities like San Francisco, New York, and Boston can cost more than $5,000 for an equivalent trip. Savvy travelers can find better deals in neighboring cities such as Oakland, Philadelphia, or Providence.

Below is a breakdown of the average family travel costs for a four-night stay across 100 select U.S. cities. The analysis was conducted by Dunhill Travel Deals—a leading source for travel deal discovery—using data from the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the U.S. General Services Administration, Business Travel News, and the Bureau of Economic Analysis. For more information, see the methodology section.

Full Results


The data used in this study is from the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics’ 2023 Domestic Airline Consumer Airfare Report, the U.S. General Services Administration’s (GSA) 2024 Per Diem Rates, Business Travel News’ 2023 Corporate Travel Index Calculator, and the Bureau of Economic Analysis’ 2022 Regional Price Parities by State and Metro Area. To calculate the total cost of a four-night stay for a family of four, researchers at Dunhill Travel Deals calculated the total cost of four average-priced round-trip flights, two average-priced hotel rooms for four nights, three average-priced meals per day for four people, and the cost of the average-priced rental car for four days.

Round-trip airfare for each location was calculated by doubling the average aggregated, one-way, domestic trip data for directionless city pairs pertaining to that location. Airfares for each city pair include segments for both nonstop and connecting itineraries, and in order to include airports that are nearby to the travel destination, the average airfare was calculated using the average airfare for all airports serving that market. Some markets are primarily served by small or regional airports with limited commercial flight options, which can result in lower average airfares. Average hotel room costs were calculated using the GSA per diem rates, which are formulated to best represent mid-range hotels in each market. Similarly, average meal costs were calculated from the GSA per diem rates to represent the total cost of breakfast, lunch, dinner, and incidentals (tips). Rental car costs were calculated by averaging the daily rental rates (including taxes) across full-size, intermediate, and compact vehicle classes.

The researchers also calculated the total cost of a four-night stay for an individual, the round-trip flight cost per person, the four-night lodging cost per room, the four-day meal cost per person, the four-day rental car cost per car, and the cost of other services compared to average (helpful for approximating entertainment and recreation affordability). Additionally, for relevance, only a select 100 cities with complete data were used in the analysis.


  1. Nationwide. (2024, February 12). Survey: U.S. consumer travel to surge in 2024. Retrieved on May 20, 2024 from
  2. Airline for America. (2024, May 14). A4A Predicts Record-Setting Summer Travel Season for U.S. Airlines. Retrieved on May 20, 2024 from
  3. UN Tourism. (2021, January 28)2020: Worst Year in Tourism History with 1 Billion Fewer International Arrivals. Retrieved on May 20, 2024 from
  4. U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics. (2023). Domestic Airline Consumer Airfare Report [Dataset]. Retrieved on May 20, 2024 from
  5. U.S. General Services Administration. (2024). Per Diem Rates [Dataset]. Retrieved on May 20, 2024 from
  6. Business Travel News. (2023). Corporate Travel Index Calculator [Dataset]. Retrieved on May 20, 2024 from
  7. Bureau of Economic Analysis. (2022). Regional Price Parities by State and Metro Area [Dataset]. Retrieved on May 20, 2024 from

Author: Kristi Williams

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